Valleywise Health hits ICU capacity, had to find 'not normal' places for patients

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Posted at 3:35 PM, Dec 16, 2020

PHOENIX — Valleywise Health reached ICU capacity earlier this week and had to find "not normal" places for additional patients who required that level of care.

On Wednesday, Valleywise Health Chief Clinical Officer Dr. Michael White said capacity had improved at the hospital and that three ICU beds were available. It's a number that is constantly changing.

However, on Tuesday, Dr. White said their ICU reached capacity. Six patients requiring that level of care had to be placed elsewhere in the hospital.

"We were having people in our emergency department that were requiring ICU level of care, holding people in our post-anesthesia care unit," Dr. White said.

Dr. White maintained while not an ideal scenario, the patients received the necessary care.

"They will get the same level of care no matter where they are within the hospital," Dr. White said.

As COVID-19 cases surge, and some experts predict may not peak for weeks, Dr. White said this scenario could repeat itself.

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"It means that we'll be in those spaces, instead of a transient period of time that we're in those extra spaces where we're delivering this level of care, it means we will be doing that as part of routine practice," Dr. White said.

That doesn't mean it's a preferable situation. "It puts a strain on our team," he said. "It puts a strain on our frontline healthcare workers."

As for how long hospitals will face challenging conditions, on Wednesday the executive director for ASU's Biodesign Institute said their models have been matching what they projected and he believes a peak might not come until late January or early February.

"That peak would not be a good one," said Dr. Joshua LaBaer. "That suggests something like 200,000 active cases of the virus in the state, that's an extraordinarily high number."

Also on Wednesday, Arizona ranked as the worst state in the nation for a metric called r-naught, which measures the rate of virus spread.

"We are, without a doubt, a hotspot in this country," Dr. LaBaer said. "If not the top hotspot."